Growing a tree from seed isn't for the impatient but it's satisfying. It also is an ideal project for a parent or grandparent and child.
Planting seeds of a dogwood tree, a pussy willow shrub, or a Dutchman's pipe vine isn't difficult. But it's not exactly like sowing packets of marigold seeds. First, you need to know when and how to collect ripe seeds from native shrubs and trees. Some are dried and stored until planting time. Others must be planted right away. Many must go through a period of cold before they'll germinate.
If that makes the process sound complicated, an informative new book, "Growing Trees From Seed," by Henry Kock with Paul Aird, John Ambrose, and Gerald Waldron (Firefly Books), shows that it isn't at all. Just look up the plant that you want to collect seed from and read the book's simple instructions. Then head back to Chapters 2 and 3 to learn how to tell if the fruit is ripe, the best way to collect the seeds and how to clean them, and if any special treatment is needed.
Want to grow an oak tree from an acorn? The best time to gather them is when the squirrels eat and drop them. Cut one open to see if it's white or yellow all through and not bug-infested. Because of oaks' long tap root, plant the acorn where you want it to grow, removing the cap but not the coat. If you can't plant right away, place it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Acorns planted in the fall will generally emerge by May.